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3 potentially catastrophic storms expected during 2018 hurricane season

Beaches not too bad after tropical storm, tides (copy)

Storm tides, destructive winds and flung debris are the biggest threats from a tropical storm or hurricane in South Carolina. File/staff

Hurricane season warnings predict 2018 won't be as bad as last year, but there's a chance of three major hurricanes in the months ahead.

Phil Klotzbach of the Tropical Meteorology Project is calling for a slightly above average season, with 14 named storms, or storms with winds stronger than 39 mph.

Seven of those would become hurricanes, with winds at 74 mph or stronger.

Three of those would become major hurricanes — potentially catastrophic storms with winds stronger than 110 mph.

The Tropical Meteorology Project, a brainchild of the late hurricane guru Bill Gray, is considered among the best in hurricane research.

AccuWeather.com, a private forecasting company, predicted a similar season and numbers earlier this week. The official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast will be given out at the end of May.

The designated season opens June 1 and runs through November.

Similar numbers were predicted by forecaster for the 2017 hurricane season. The actual season — with its devastating late season of extraordinarily powerful storms — left some people in the Lowcountry, the state and the nation shaken.

Hundreds died from the Caribbean to the U.S. mainland. Hundreds of thousands more were left homeless.

Nine storms became hurricanes and six of those became major hurricanes. In South Carolina, brushes by Tropical Storm Irma and other storms caused millions of dollars in damage.

Four of the worst hurricanes formed one after the other from late August into September. Two — Irma and Maria — reached cataclysmic Category Five with winds stronger than 156 mph.

The other two — Harvey and Jose — reached Hurricane Hugo strength with winds above 130 mph.

At one point, Irma became the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The combined power of the four storms, along with weaker hurricanes Katia and Lee, made that period the worst on record.

Repair costs already are in the billions and power hasn't been restored completely to Puerto Rico yet. Harvey, Irma and Marie could turn out to be three of the five costliest hurricanes on record, according to a tweet by NOAA hurricane specialist Eric Blake.

"For us in the Southeast coastal region, it will be good to have a plan for evacuation and supplies no matter what," said meteorologist Shea Gibson, with Charleston-based WeatherFlow. "Hurricane Irma proved that a tropical cyclone does not have to be bearing down on us to show its flooding, wind and storm potentials."

Irma's effects here were felt here with the heart of the storm 350 miles away, he said.

For the time being, seas offshore the Southeast are too cool for storms to form, but tropical storms regularly have formed off the coast in the early days of the season as the waters warm.

"It is not uncommon to see an attempt at sub-tropical development by as early as late April and into to the month of May," Gibson said.

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

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